I’ve got a rare Sunday post up at Good Men Project this week: Yes, Rape Victims Get Erections, Too. I look at the myths we have about boys who are sexually abused by older women. Excerpt:
The myth that men are invulnerable to sexual victimization at the hands of women is a powerful one. It sits alongside several other myths. For one, we have a hard time believing that grown women could be attracted to adolescent boys (while we accept as normal the idea that grown men are sexually fixated on teen girls.) Second, we have a hard time acknowledging that guys are every bit as emotionally vulnerable as their sisters, just as easily traumatized by a predatory adult. Young men may indeed be horny (as are more young women than we sometimes admit), but a strong libido doesn’t functional as psychological armor.
But perhaps the most enduring myth brought up by cases like this is the idea that pleasure is incompatible with victimization. Real victims only feel pain, never arousal – or so far too many people still believe. An erection, or better still, ejaculation, functions as proof that a boy wasn’t really harmed. Most predators who molest children and underage teens know this; many sexual abusers go to great lengths to try to arouse their victims. The child’s pleasure functions as a kind of absolution in the mind of the abuser; “I can’t be that bad if I made them feel good!”
But of course, an orgasm isn’t evidence of consent. As decades of research have shown us, a surprising number of male and female victims of sexual abuse do report having experienced some physical pleasure while they were being molested. That memory of arousal can lead to greater feelings of guilt, as it seems proof in a child’s mind that he (or she) was somehow complicit in what happened. “Part of me enjoyed it, so I must have wanted it,” the thinking goes. Some therapists who work with survivors of abuse say that these cases are often the most difficult to treat.